NASCAR's Reutimann: Faith-driven
Monday, Apr 2, 2007
By Lee Warren
CORNELIUS, N.C. (BP)—At the age of 37, David Reutimann is seen as a late bloomer in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. The 2007 season is his first opportunity to compete full time in the sport’s highest series.
And given his credentials — he’s a third-generation driver who was the 2004 Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and in 2006, he had four top 10 finishes in the Busch Series while running a limited schedule — it might be easy for him to believe that he’s earned his shot at the big time. But that’s not even close to the way he thinks.
“When I was 19-20 years old, Cup owners didn’t want a rookie because they are prone to tear stuff up from being too aggressive,” Reutimann said. “So then I get older, and the next thing I knew, Jeff Gordon comes along and he’s 18 and he does so well and then everybody wants a guy who is really young. At that point it seemed like we got jumped over. But we kept plugging away and I got my opportunity a little bit later than the hiring trend has been, but all in all, I figure God had a plan and this is just part of it.”
Reutimann grew up in a Christian household and admits to straying from the faith during his teen years. But one incident brought him back to the faith — a simple prayer he prayed for safety after a fellow student threatened to beat him up the next day. The boy didn’t show up for school and that caught Reutimann’s attention.
“I hadn’t prayed in years,” Reutimann said. “And the Lord got me out of a bad situation and the kid never even mentioned it again. He forgot all about it. It took something simple to remind me how easy it was to go to the Lord. Even though I hadn’t been acting like I was supposed to, he was still willing to listen to what I had to say and help me out. From that point on, I’ve tried to do a lot better job in my walk.”
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t struggle, though, and he’s quick to admit it.
“Believe me, I struggle,” Reutimann said. “I fall. I stumble. I’m the furthest thing from an ideal Christian you’ll ever see, I think. I let things creep in. I get mad. Sometimes I say things I shouldn’t and it’s not a good feeling. But the good feeling is knowing that I can always go to God in prayer and confess and say, ‘I know I’m doing wrong. help me because I don’t know how to fix it.’”
As he works his way through the sanctification process, he’s conscious of the fact that unbelievers are watching him. Going back to the late 1980s, he’s either had a cross on his car or inside it somewhere as both a witness to the unbelieving world and as a reminder to himself that he is representing the One who died for his sins.
“It’s definitely a double-edged sword,” Reutimann said. “I want to express my faith and it has given me the opportunity to speak to people who come up and say, ‘I like the cross on your car.’ It gives them the chance to share their story with me and me to share my story with them when I normally wouldn’t get to do that. On the other side of the deal, you have a huge responsibility to go out there and act right.
“That’s something I’ve had a hard time dealing with because sometimes you are aggressive and you’re trying real hard and sometimes things happen on the race track that you don’t mean to happen, but people see that and say, ‘He just knocked him out of the way and he’s got a cross on his car — who does he think he is?’ It’s kind of a tough deal. And I’m not really sure how to deal with that, but I don’t feel comfortable not having it on there. I feel like its part of me.”
Reutimann depends on a number of people to encourage him in his walk. He’s married to Lisa and they have a 5-year-old girl named Emilia. They are members of Berea Baptist Church in Mooresville, N.C., where they attend during the off-season. After the season starts, members of their church frequently send cards and letters to let them know how much they are missed. And during the season, Reutimann leans heavily on chapel services conducted by Motor Racing Outreach.
“Lonnie Clouse [the chaplain for MRO in the Busch Series] and I talk a lot about faith and God and when I’m having a bad day, I’ll text message him and he’ll send me a Bible verse,” Reutimann said. “And Kenny Crosswhite, another guy formerly with MRO, he shows up at the race track and he and Lonnie will pray with me before the race. I like those guys because their walk in the Lord is much better than mine and they always have a good verse that really fits what I’m going through.”
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